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Most people avoid hard work. They want instant results and see anything else as a waste of time.

But there’s no substitute for becoming better. And becoming better starts with a work ethic that never stops.

If you want to be successful in life, you have to put in hard work. Even if you can’t see where it’s going to take you right now.

In this episode, you’ll discover how to step up your game with a strong work ethic for the things you want most in life.

Show Highlights Include:

  • How to push aside workplace distractions and become the best at what you do. (0:52)
  • How to build a stronger work ethic with Ozzie Smith’s Hall of Fame Speech. (2:16)
  • The ‘Vince Lombardi’ way of investing into what you want (and experiencing joy on another level). (3:36)
  • Why Nick Saban’s coaching style advances your career and improves your sense of pride. (5:40)
  • Using the 4 AM Farmer’s philosophy to get your dream job. (7:41)
  • Why success doesn’t happen overnight (and how to get real results without a time limit). (9:49)
  • Why showing up like Cal Ripken Jr. builds your life legacy of respect, hard work, and excellence. (11:00)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thank you so much for joining me today. I want to talk to you about developing a strong work ethic.

I really believe that a work ethic is based on the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous and worthy of reward. A work ethic is a belief in work as a moral good, an important endeavor based on a set of solid values. I have this basic theory. If we spent more time strengthening our work ethic, we'd have less time to brag, gossip, whimper, and complain. [01:02.5]

I wish I could claim this theory as my own, but like so many of my nuggets of wisdom, this too came from my father, the wisest man I ever met in my life, that third-grade dropout. My dad possessed the strongest work ethic I've ever witnessed. He taught me that a strong work ethic is grounded in character, professionalism, dedication, and determination.

You see, in my house, growing up, there was no complaining. You did not make excuses. You simply did the job and you did it better than anybody else. The expectation was to work hard now, worry about rewards later. In our current culture, we've seen a reversal in this. I'm amazed by people who want to see the benefits upfront.

My earliest memory was a dad saying there was no substitute for excellence. He'd say, “Son, if you're going to do a job, do it right.” Now, grammatically. I know it ought to be “do it well”, but I love the way my father used to say it. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on work ethic and excellence. [02:14.0]

First, a quick backstory. This little boy grew up in Los Angeles. He loved baseball. There were some struggles along the way, but he kept playing baseball and he was so good that he got a partial scholarship to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. That's in central California. When the starting shortstop got injured, they inserted Ozzie Smith into the lineup and he never relinquished his position. He would eventually get drafted by the San Diego Padres. He would help the St. Louis Cardinals win a world series.

Several years ago when Ozzie Smith, affectionately known as “The Wizard”, walked into baseball's Hall of Fame, he said during his induction speech, good enough isn't good enough if it can be better, and better isn't good enough if it can be best.” Now, that, my friends, is a classic definition of a robust work ethic.

That comes from the great Ozzie Smith. You see, he understood what I'm advocating for today. A strong work ethic is important. We derive greater satisfaction from giving our all. I love the Vince Lombardi story. You know Vince Lombardi. He won so many football championships that the Super Bowl Championship trophy bears his name. But he said his greatest moment, the most joy he ever felt on a football field, was when he played in high school, both offense and defense, and they were playing in this big game against their rival. [04:03.2]

I don't remember the score, but this is what I do remember. He gave his all on both sides of the ball, and at the end of the game, he found himself lying on the ground, bloodied, battered, bruised, and he looked up toward the sky and he thought to himself, This is one of the most joyous feelings I've ever had. Friends, there's something about giving it your absolute very best, leaving it all out there. It can produce a euphoric joy.

A strong work ethic is important because it's also contagious. When others see your standard, they're influenced greatly. As a matter of fact, they're impacted. We used to say in football at Texas A&M University, where I was privileged to be the life skills coach for R. C. Slocum, we used to say that the best coaching would come from the other players, those other players who were setting the example. [05:05.4]

I like that, because what happens when they start to see others step up their game? It creates an environment. It creates a contagious kind of atmosphere where folks just want to do better. A strong work ethic is important because it also grows organizational engagement. People can be influenced to be better and to do more. You might say a strong worth ethic is transformative.

How badly do you want to improve your work ethic today? I remember Alabama head football coach, Nick Saban saying this on one occasion. He said, “It's not about what you want. It's what you're willing to do to get it.” I like that. You see, when we are willing to take the handcuffs off limitations, there is no telling how far we can go. [06:00.8]

Those with a positive work ethic will hold themselves accountable for any mistakes they make or problems that they might cause. In other words, they will own the process. They also strive to do the right thing when a challenging situation arises. Such people strive to do what is right and acceptable versus what is wrong and underhanded.

The benefits of a strong work ethic are obvious. Improved job performance. Higher job satisfaction. Career advancement. But there's one other benefit that's not so obvious. A sense of pride in knowing that you did your absolute very best, and just like a bruised and battered Vince Lombardi, you can find great joy from knowing that you gave your all. [06:53.5]

A strong work ethic is a powerful alternative to what we see way too much of today. Poor attendance, repeated absences, leisurely lunches, early departures, procrastination, wasting time, excessive time engaged in office gossip, surfing the internet, or tending to personal issues. Oh, no, when you make the investment every single day to transform your life with a strong, powerful, robust work ethic, you don't have time for such activities.

You see, I believe that a strong work ethic is pragmatic, often born out of challenging times. Let me explain what I mean. I'm thinking about the farmer who rises at 4:00 in the morning, not because he wants to, but because he has to. I'm thinking about this single mother holding down two jobs, not because she wants to, but because she has to. Greatness has been defined as those who do things that others don't. [08:01.8]

One might argue that the farmer is not worried about greatness but survival, that the single mom is not worried about greatness but survival. But I would argue that forcing yourself to do what you really don't want to do gives birth to a mindset that's ripe with potential to grow greatness.

Nobody wants to rise at 4:00 a.m. to milk cows. Nobody wants to work two jobs to feed a family. Few athletes that I've met really truly enjoy off-season conditioning programs. Few of the football players that I've been privileged to be around really enjoy tour-day practices in the heat of the summer. But, you see, they've all discovered a bigger picture, the development of an attitude that says greatness comes with a price. The question is are we willing to pay the price? [08:57.8]

This is why I believe that a solid work ethic is more attitudinal than it is behavioral. Our attitude drives our behavior. There's a mental mindset that drives performance that requires paying a price that many are unwilling to pay, how we think can give birth to greater effort. The Bible says, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”

Many people think, If I get my dream job, then I'll put maximum effort into that job. Let me just be very honest and say you will rarely get your dream job without first putting in maximum effort, and, second, waiting for your dream job before developing your work ethic will turn out to be a very long wait. Here's some sage wisdom from our grandparents, folks, that lived that previous generation. Put in the work. Put in the work. Resist the temptation to get results without first putting in the work. [10:04.5]

I recall, after sharing my story with someone of my journey of speaking for three decades and not having really good success until the latter part of these three decades, a person came up to me and said, “You know what? I want in three years what it took you 30 years to achieve.” I was absolutely totally speechless. You see, doing your best as a mindset. You don't set time limits on doing your best. Doing your best means paying the price. It's a mindset. Resisting minimal effort, that's a mindset, and changing jobs does not develop that mindset. Thinking differently does. Transformation begins in the mind. [10:55.8]

I want to close with a perfect example of work ethic. This person is the epitome of work ethic. His name Cal Ripken, Jr., former Major League Baseball player, Hall of Fame member, just transformed the position of shortstop. He played 21 seasons in the major leagues from 1981 to 2001. He played all of those years for just one team, the Baltimore Orioles.

Now, he is one of the most accomplished baseball players ever. He's considered a legend. But just for a few moments, I want you to forget about the fact that, in 21 years, he appeared in 19 All-Star games, has over 3000 hits, over 400 home runs, has won several most valuable player awards. I want you to focus on this one thing. Ripken is known most as “The Iron Man” of baseball for breaking Lou Gehrig's record of consecutive games played. [12:02.6]

Gehrig was known as “The Iron Horse” who played in a room record-setting 2,130 baseball games, a record that stood for or 56 years and was considered unbreakable. But on Wednesday night, September 6, 1995, something happened that we fans will never forget. Ripken broke the record. That's right. “The Iron Man” broke the record set by “The Iron Horse”.
Not only did Ripken break the consecutive games record, but he would continue the streak totaling 2,632 consecutive games played. The significance of the record was huge, not just for baseball, but throughout the world. People from every walk of life talked about the importance of showing up every day and doing your job. [13:06.8]

No, you didn't have to be a sports fan to get swept up in the emotion of this historic event. My late wife, Trina, battling cancer in 1995 and, admittedly, not the biggest sports fan in the world, I recall that she cried as Cal Ripken took a victory lap around Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore were in attendance on that Wednesday night in 1995, as was sports royalty, including the great Joe DiMaggio who played alongside Lou Gehrig with the New York Yankees. Cal Ripken, Jr.’s standing ovation lasted—are you ready for this?—22 minutes. ESPN never cut away for a commercial break during that time. [14:02.0]

Ripken is from a baseball family. His brother, Billy, was also a Major Leaguer and their father, Cal, Sr., was a baseball lifer. He spent all of his 36 years in professional baseball with the same organization, the Baltimore Orioles, came in as a scout, then a player, then a coach. Senior even managed the Orioles for a short time. In fact, in 1987, Cal, Sr., became the first manager to write both his sons into the starting lineup of a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. Cal, Sr., was so respected, not just in Baltimore, but throughout baseball, Senior, in fact, is credited with bringing them about the Oriole Way, Baltimore’s tradition of excellence, doing things the right way. [14:55.0]

Despite Senior’s 36 years with the organization, only one was spent as manager and it caused columnist, Thomas Boswell to write, “The idea that a person could find deep satisfaction through fulfilling difficult responsibilities–while never focusing on personal rewards–seems antique these days. Yet Ripken's example makes you wonder if the century, not Senior”—not Cal Ripken, Sr., but the century—“has lost its way.”
Since his death, no Oriole has ever worn Cal Sr.’s number 7, although the number has not been officially retired. Apparently the apple did not fall too far from the tree. Junior's work ethic continues since retiring from baseball in 2001. He's a best-selling author. He's a businessman, and since 2007, he has been a Major League Baseball analyst on TBS. [15:58.6]

My favorite Cal Ripken, Jr., book is titled, Just Show Up: And Other Enduring Values from Baseball's Iron Man. It's a handbook on work ethic. It includes a lot of wisdom from his father, something I really appreciate. Among my favorite quotes is this. “Everything you do is a test of how well you do it.” Isn't that good, y'all?

Ripken's record-breaking night was a win for all those who believe in the steadfast notion that a robust work ethic is worth the price and will produce great results, whether you build bridges or model trains, whether you sweep floors or fly planes.
I close with this quote from Aristotle, who said, on one occasion, you are what you repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. If everything is a test of how well you do it, why not start where you are and commit to doing your absolute best every day? You never know, such a mindset is where records begin. [17:13.7]

That’s going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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